Sunday, August 9, 2009


I've recently encountered in both my professional and personal life a few individuals, one might term true "sociopaths", modernly called Antisocial Personality Disorder. This disorder is usually defined as a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics including egocentricity; impulsivity; irresponsibility; shallow emotions; lack of empathy, guilt, or remorse; pathological lying; manipulativeness; and the persistent violation of social norms and expectations (Cleckley 1976; Hare 1993).

Needless to say, it has been a challenge encountering these individuals both professionally and personally. And these encounters have brought out the worst/and sometimes best in me.

The DSM-IV criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder begins with the statement, "There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others." Thereafter, follows a list of seven characteristics, of which three must be present. Here are several that are especially relevant:

(1) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

(2) Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations

(3) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

(4) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.

According to many experts, the cause of this disorder appears to be a combination of genetic predisposition and failure to bond with other human beings, resulting in a failure to empathize and behave with what we would call a "conscience".

Very strong bonding produces people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, who demonstrate the highest development of human conscience and attachment.

Weaker bonding creates the tricky salesman or the unprincipled politician. These people have impaired conscience and may be somewhat afflicted with APD, but are not criminal and are still able to function in society. They are nevertheless troublesome. This might be the man/woman who doesn't hold down a job due to authority issues, and manipulates others to support him/her. This could also be someone who cheats or defrauds. And the list goes on.

More severe bonding issues could be the cause of the criminally predisposed...drug pushers, wife-beaters, and thieves. The most severely unbonded, unattached become the serial killers and rapists.

In my professional experience, I've seen how nontraditional psychological care, such as drug treatment using principles from TCs (Therapeutic Communities) which emphasize accountability and responsibility works for these individuals to rebuild the character structure. It seems that "spiritual conversion" is also an important part of the "treatment" for many.

Again, it has been challenging and I do not have all the answers, but I've learned quite a bit from these experiences and hope to continue learning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

True Love and the Impossible

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.
Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (On the side of a hill in the deep forest green).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground).
Without no seams nor needlework (Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain).
Then she'll be a true love of mine (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to find me an acre of land (On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Washes the ground with so many tears).
Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).
Then she'll be a true love of mine. (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather (War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Generals order their soldiers to kill).
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten).
Then she'll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Love is the alchemical elixir of life.

In the seaside town of Scarborough, during the Middle Ages, the town was host to a huge 45-day trading event, a wonderful and amazing fair! It was exceptionally long for a fair in those times and there was entertainment and magic in the form of jesters and jugglers and fools engaged to entertain the buyers, sellers, and of course, the pleasure seekers.
This heart-stirring ballad, “Scarborough Faire”, adapted and made famous by Simon and Garfunkel, was probably derived from an older Scottish ballad, “The Elfin Knight”, which has been traced at least as far back as 1670.
The song tells the tale of a young man, who tells the listener to ask his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then finding an acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, asserting that if she does all this, she will be his true love.
But are these tasks truly impossible for her? Did this young man intend to set up his true love for failure or did he hope that she’d succeed? In the deeper meaning of the song, these tasks may not be impossible, indeed. Not if we, and his beloved, realize and understand that true love is the alchemical elixir of life. Not if we embrace our full potential, as spiritual beings, to love and be-loved.
Alchemy became known as the spagyric art after Greek words meaning to separate and to join together in the 16th century, the word probably being coined by Paracelsus. Some goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into gold; the creation of a "panacea", or the elixir of life, a remedy that supposedly would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely; and the discovery of a universal solvent. Although these were not the only uses for the discipline, they were the ones most well known. Certain Hermetic schools argue that the transmutation of lead into gold is analogical for the transmutation of the physical body (Saturn or lead) into Solar energy (gold) with the goal of attaining immortality. This is described as Internal Alchemy. Starting with the Middle Ages, Arabic and European alchemists invested much effort in the search for the "philosopher's stone", a legendary substance that was believed to be an essential ingredient for either or both of those goals.
But is that the full meaning of alchemy? Turning base metal into gold? No. Several early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis, are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline, and in the Middle Ages, metaphysical aspects increasingly came to be viewed as the true foundation of the art. Organic and inorganic chemical substances, physical states, and molecular material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states and ultimately, transformations. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could have otherwise led them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy. Thus, both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible and everlasting state; and the philosopher's stone then represented a mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented a hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously "decoded" in order to discover their true meaning.
Is it possible that true love has the potential to be the philosopher’s stone?
YES. Love is the philosopher's stone, the universal solvent that alchemically transmutes our imperfections. Love transforms us as rain transforms the seedling, bringing forth our greatest inner potential, our hidden virtues. In this way, love turns base metals into gold. Love alone can bring you happiness and healing.
Yes. Love is the universal panacea. It heals all wounds. Love enables us to forgive ourselves and others. Forgiveness releases the negative thoughts and feelings that imprison us in the isolation and unconscious motivation of ego and karma.
In fact, Love is the celestial stairway, the ladder we climb to approach and experience the unity of all that exists.
Real life.
How am I certain of the truth of this? I’ve experienced it, again and again in my work as a therapist and healer. My student intern and I presented this song and some of these ideas to the Recovery group we lead, which contains members who deal with both mental illness and addiction. We suggested they think of the lover and the beloved in the song as parts of themselves and to consider the true love to be love of self. My student suggested to the group that we often set impossible expectations (like the tasks) on ourselves and only love and approve of ourselves if we meet these expectations. Yet, from the responses of the group members and our continuing experience with our clientele, true love of self exists! It exists and it is possible. And how do we know this? Walk into a 12 step meeting or a group such as this. You will see and experience people who propel themselves forward with self-love, albeit, imperfect, but perfect in its imperfections, after the most humiliating and ego-crushing of experiences. Individuals who have lived on the streets. Who have prostituted for drugs. Who have had their children taken from them for abuse or neglect. Who have experienced the darkest sides of themselves; yet, manage to change their minds, bodies and souls in the true spirit of the Alchemist.
But how? How to make this change? There are many ways. In our song, “Scarborough Fair”, four herbs are mentioned. Perhaps, they are magical and maybe, they will speak to us.
Parsley, a digestive aid, takes away the bitterness in the stomach, and medieval doctors took this in a spiritual sense as well. To forgive.
Sage has been known to symbolize strength for thousands of years. To build fortitude.
Rosemary represents faithfulness, love and remembrance, and the custom of a bride wearing twigs of rosemary in her hair is still practiced in England and several other European countries today. To be true.
Thyme symbolizes courage, and during the medieval era, knights would often wear images of thyme on their shields when they went to combat. To be fearless.

Self-love and recovery. It can be the magical elixir.
You can be the Alchemist.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cuddle Parties

What is a Cuddle Party? And why go to one?

Last Saturday night, I went to a cuddle party. I heard about it from my friend, Scott. I've known Scott for about 20 years now. He is a massage therapist, and I trust him to lead me into wonderful, healing, safe places.

So I went with my husband. It was an experience.

A cuddle party is a safe place to explore nonsexual touch and boundary setting. The premise is: many of us are starved for touch, particularly touch that is purely nonsexual and not just in the context of an intimate relationship. Some of us, unfortunately, have also had our boundaries violated when it comes to the form of sexual abuse, domestic violence or the like. So touch can be a threatening thing.

At a cuddle party, the cuddle party facilitator starts by setting the RULES. The rules are:

1. No means no. And NO is a complete sentence.
2. Yes means Yes.
3. (MAYBE is better off a NO because it gives a clearer message and discourages the requester to request again).
4. We are all responsible for our own emotions and taking care of ourselves if we get a NO. We will survive a NO.
5. Requests for touch (i.e cuddling, holding, massaging) need to be specific.
6. When we've had enough cuddling, all you have to say is "Thank You" and move on.

After the rules are laid out, the cuddling commences. The party we went to was gender balanced. It took place in a beautiful apartment on the Upper West side of Manhattan and the room had foam covered with blankets all over the floor. Refreshments were served, and the host was a middle-aged woman, who was warm, sweet and well-spoken.

Basically what happened next was people who wanted to cuddle you would ask to do so. And you would agree or not. There was spooning, massaging, hugging, and some stroking (of nonsexual areas)going on all over the place.

I am not going to say that it was all easy and fun, however. Challenging yourself to an experience like this, where your ego is on the line, can be a bit frightening. What if no one wants to cuddle you? Well, that didn't happen, but if it did, what then? Well, one thing you learn at this event, is: you will be alright. The facilitator gave an example of a little kid with a new tricycle riding all around a playground asking his friends if they want a ride on the back. The little boy is pure joy and happiness and as he asks his buddies to ride, the first few say No. They're doing something else--like jump-rope or video games. But the little boy is unperturbed. He doesn't wonder: Is it me? Is it my tricycle? Something not good enough? It's not about that. It's about the fun and joy.

As adults, we lose this fun-filled free-spiritedness of giving and receiving without expectation along the way. A cuddle party is possibly one way, although quite an unusual one, to explore the possibility of giving and receiving without fear. It is also an opportunity to heal--perhaps from abuse, trauma or codependency. If you are interested in this experience, check out the link below. Happy Cuddling.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lying and Crazy-Making

In families affected by alcoholism and addiction, there are many "cover-ups"-more bluntly put, there are a lot of lies. Familes affected by this dysfunction will lie to deny the problem of addiction. They will lie to make excuses for the mess addiction has created. They will lie to "save face" in a pretense to show their family as "normal". They will lie to cover up the pain. Yet, addiction is not the only situation we find lying as an issue in interpersonal relationships.

Recently, I had an experience with an old friend I reacquainted with. He was a trusted friend from college. In fact, he was
my best friend and helped me through a very rough time when I was younger. And now, unfortunately, he is a pathological liar. He lies about many things-from the simplest lies, such as whether he's traveling by train or car-to deeper, more damaging lies, which constitute true breaches of trust.

For over 20 years, I've been treating people with addiction and families who cope with addiction. ACOAs, adult children of alcoholics and the wives/husbands of people with an addiction often come to me for help understanding their loved one who is addicted. I, myself, am a child of an addict...however, not until now, have I understood fully how deeply painful it is to interact with someone with an inability to relate

It is always apparent how painful it is for the loved ones of addicts. Their situation is sad. They want their loved one to get help desperately and it's often an uphill battle.

Yet, it's not just about the drink or drug.

Like my friend, people suffering from addiction LIE. They lie to hide their addiction. They lie to escape the consequences of their addiction. And sometimes they lie out of denial and don't even know they're lying. They mostly lie out of a sense of deep shame and feelings of unworthiness.

What is the effect of the lying? When someone lies, particularly if it's a breach of trust lie, interpersonal bonds are broken. Especially if the person lying insists they are telling the truth and insists the listener is wrong or "crazy", deep wounds are the result. Both parties-the liar and the lied to-experience a sense of disconnection that is so difficult to mend.

In my situation, with my once trusted friend, I felt a hurt so deep, I began to question everything about him, and even doubted myself and my own judgement for caring about him. Currently, we are trying to recuperate from that pain, but it's not easy. Yet, the process of recovery can help.

If you are an ACOA or a family member of an addict or alcoholic, you are probably being lied to. It may make you feel crazy, unworthy or just plain bad.

Reach out. Come out of isolation. Make and sustain interpersonal relationships that will nurture and sustain you through this.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Walking the Way of Compassion

Choosing a Therapist and Healing

When we choose to go to therapy, what is it that most of us want to accomplish?
What are our goals?
Some of us may want to overcome an addiction. Others may be experiencing trouble in relationships. Yet, others my be suffering from a phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder or depression.
What do these goals of therapy have in common?

Is a common desire for compassion?

If you thought about it; what is the one feeling that if we had more of for ourselves and others, many problems would simply fall away.

Maybe we can argue that it is LOVE.

With love, all things are possible, so they say?
But what if we're not ready to love.

What about compassion?

Is it not true that compassion for the self is integral to healing?
Don't we want others to have compassion for us as well?

Quan Yin, the Chinese Goddess embraces all sentient beings with her the Buddhist tradition.

A therapist needs to have her traits as well. A therapist needs to have compassion so that she can encourage it in her client and give it to her client.

This is a trait I have.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Asking for What You Want

In the last post, I spoke about getting your needs met. Well, easier said than done! In an intimate relationship; our needs are often raging, so why is it that we so seldom get them met?

Why are we often so frustrated and left feeling empty when we relate to the one person closest to us?

At the risk of oversimplifying-the answer is: WE DON'T ASK OUR PARTNER FOR WHAT WE WANT. And when we do ask, we ask for the general not the specific. Or we don't really ask; we demand and try to control!

Let me give you a few examples of some typical requests:
  1. "I want you to be more open with me."
  2. "I want you to pay attention to me when I talk from now on."
  3. "I want you to stop nagging me so much."

The problem with these requests are: they're too general; they ask for something not just for now, but forever; they have the tone of an ultimatum; and they do NOT specify that a yes or a no is an okay answer.

Now compare the above requests with these:

  1. "I want you to tell me about your troubles at work if you're ok with that."
  2. "I'd like you to look at me when we talk right now."
  3. "I'd like you to use a softer tone of voice when you ask me to help out with the housework."
  4. "I'd like to go to the movies tonight, and it's okay if you say yes or no."

These requests are specific. They are focused in the here and now-meaning that the receiver of the request can fulfill the request (or not) in the present moment. And they give the impression that a no response, as well as a yes is okay, and won't be met with an emotional disaster.

So try it. Next time you want something...ask for it. Be specific. And see what happens when you allow either a yes or a no to be ok!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting your Needs Met

A friend of mine was talking the other day about his friend's relationship. In that relationship, the couple had a "rule" that when the woman drove home from a date, he'd call her to see if she got home alright.

My friend, a lawyer, and a good arguer, found this scenario "infantalizing". He said something like this, "Why is that when people get into a relationship, the woman wants to be treated like an eight year old?" Then he went on to say that prior to the relationship, she got home alright, why not now?

Interesting point, attorney.

However, I disagreed with the conclusion that this situation necessarily meant anyone was being infantalized and I'll tell you why.

This is exactly what I told him
It's not the specific need that's at issue as a determinant of whether it's infantalizing. So it's fine if he calls her to check on her.

It's how you ask for the need to be met.

1. Babies cry/whine.
2. Adults ask and are able to take no for an answer.
2. Most baby adults in relationships (who haven't had their needs met as a child...most of us) manipulate, rage....etc.

When two people get into an intimate relationship it certainly does activate all those "childhood needs". Suddenly, we're in a place where all those unmet needs have a chance to get met! It's like "wow! yipee! finally, I can get my needs met!". But we all know, this doesn't last. Eventually, someone disappoints the other; then what do we do?" That's when the opportunity for healing occurs through the relationship. The tendency for many, at this juncture, is to get into "games"-not asking for what we need directly, but assuming "If my partner loved me, he/she would know." Not a good strategy. I think what's better, is yes, to ask for what you need/want, whatever it is. Learn how NOT to feel ashamed about asking. Then practice taking both YES and NO for an answer....

More on how to do this later.....

About Me

My photo
Port Jefferson, New York, United States
Heart Centered Psychotherapist
(631) 875-9911
Out of your yearning for comfort, strength and growth, you may choose to let another offer you support and assistance. In my work as a supportive counselor, I offer you a growth-promoting climate. This is a climate where you will develop a deep trust in yourself, other individuals, and in your family or community group.
I believe people have the capacity to explore and understand themselves and their joys and pains. I believe that we all need to give ourselves permission to explore... to come to unity with ourselves, our beliefs and goals. I offer you a HEART-CENTERED approach to counseling that is compassionate and responsive to your PERSONAL NEEDS.
My commitment is to hear from the heart, to listen with a clear, open mind, creating the space for you to be wholly who you are, and as I hear into your pain, your joy, or your confusion... and you feel truly heard.., together, we will discover what help you require, what serves you.